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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Shabbath

Folio 70a

Wherein does the first clause differ from the second? — Said R. Safra: Here he would refrain on account of the knowledge that it is the Sabbath: whilst there he would refrain through the knowledge of the [forbidden] labor[s]. Said R. Nahman to him: Does one refrain from [action on] the Sabbath [for any other reason] save that the labours [are forbidden]; and does one refrain from labours for aught save because of the Sabbath?1  But said R. Nahman: for what does the Divine Law impose a sacrifice? For ignorance. There there is one fact of ignorance; here there are many facts of ignorance.2

HE IS LIABLE FOR EVERY SEPARATE LABOUR. Whence do we know the division of labors?3  — Said Samuel: Scripture saith, every one that profaneth it shall surely be put to death:4  the Torah decreed many deaths for one desecration. But this refers to wilful [desecration]? — Seeing that it is irrelevant in connection with wilful transgression, for it is written, whosoever doeth any work therein shall be put to death,5  apply it to an unwitting offender;6  then what is meant by, shall be put to death? He shall be amerced7  in money.8

But let the division of labours be deduced whence R. Nathan derives it? For it was taught, R. Nathan said: Ye shall kindle 'no fire throughout your habitations on the Sabbath day:9  why is this stated?10  Because it is said, And Moses assembled all the congregation of the children of Israel, and said unto them, These are the words which the Lord hath commanded … Six days shall work be done:11  'words' [debarim], 'the words' [ha-debarim], 'these [eleh] are the words': this indicates the thirty-nine labours taught to Moses at Sinai.12  I might think that if one performs all of them in a single state of unawareness,13  he incurs only one [sin-offering]: therefore it is stated, from ploughing and from harvesting thou shalt rest.14  Yet I might still argue, For ploughing and for harvesting one incurs two sacrifices, but for all others [together] there is but a single liability: therefore it is stated, 'Ye shall kindle no fire' — Now kindling is included in the general law: why is it singled out? That analogy therewith may be drawn, teaching: just as kindling is a principal labour and it entails a separate liability,15  so for every principal labour a separate liability is incurred.16  — Samuel holds as R. Jose, who maintained: Kindling is singled out to teach that it is [merely the object of] a negative precept.17  For it was taught: Kindling is singled out to teach that it is [merely the object of] a negative precept: this is R. Jose's view. R. Nathan said: It is particularly specified to indicate division.18

Now, let division of labours be derived, whence it is learnt by R. Jose? For it was taught: R. Jose said: [If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any one of the commandments of the Lord, concerning things which ought not to be done,] and shall do of one of them:19  sometimes one sacrifice is incurred for all of them, whilst at others one is liable for each separately. Said R. Jose son of R. Hanina, What is R. Jose's reason?20  [Of one of them teaches that liability is incurred for] one [complete act]; [for one which is but part] of one; for performing labours forbidden in themselves [i.e. 'them'], and [for labours whose prohibition is derived] from others [i.e., 'of them']; [further,] 'one transgression may involve liability for a number of sacrifices [i.e., 'one'='them',] while many offences may involve but one sacrifice [i.e., 'them'='one'],21  [Thus:] one [complete act]: [the writing of] Simeon; [one which is but part] of one, —

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. If the matter is determined by what one would refrain from, the Sabbath and its forbidden labours are tantamount to the same thing, and there would be one law for both forms of ignorance.
  2. V. notes on the Mishnah 67b.
  3. That a sacrifice is incurred for every separate labour, though they are all performed in one state of unawareness.
  4. Ex. XXXI, 14. 'Surely' is expressed in Hebrew by the doubling of the verb, which according to Talmudic exegesis signifies extension.
  5. Ex. XXXV, 2. Here the verb is not doubled.
  6. This is one of the methods of Talmudic exegesis: a text or its deduction which is irrelevant or incorrect in reference to its own case is applied to another case.
  7. Lit., 'put to death'.
  8. I.e., a sacrifice. Hence the verse teaches that many sacrifices may be incurred for the desecration of one Sabbath.
  9. Ex. XXXV, 3.
  10. It is apparently superfluous, being included in the general prohibition of labour.
  11. Ibid. 1f.
  12. 'Words' implies at least two; 'the' (Heb. v ) is regarded as an extension, whereby two is extended to three; 'these' (Heb. vkt ) is given its numerical value, which is thirty-six, thus totalling thirty-nine in all. (Hebrew letters are also numbers.) — The existence of a large body of oral law, stated verbally to Moses or generally known, was assumed. V. Weiss, Dor, I, and supra p. 123, n. 7.
  13. Without being informed in between that some of these labours are forbidden, but remaining in ignorance from the first labour to the last.
  14. Ibid. XXXIV, 21. Since these are specified individually, it follows that each entails a separate sacrifice.
  15. Since it is stated separately.
  16. Hence the difficulty, why does Samuel quote different verses to learn this?
  17. Whereas other labours, wilfully performed, are punishable by death or kareth, this is punished by flagellation, like the violation of any negative precept.
  18. As above.
  19. Lev. IV, 2.
  20. How does he deduce this from the verse?
  21. 'Of one of them', Heb. [H] is a peculiar construction. Scripture should have written, 'and shall do one' (not of one) 'of them', or, 'and do of them' (one being understood), or, 'and shall do one' (of them being understood). Instead of which a partitive preposition is used before each. Hence each part of the pronoun is to be interpreted separately, teaching that he is liable for the transgression of 'one' precept, and for part of one (i.e., 'of one'); for 'them' (explained as referring to the primary labours); and for the derivatives 'of them' (toledoth — labours forbidden because they partake of the same nature as the fundamentally prohibited labours). Also, each pronoun reacts upon the other, as explained in the text.

Shabbath 70b

[the writing of] Shem as part of Simeon.1  Labours forbidden in themselves' [i.e., 'them']-the primary labours,' [labours whose prohibition is derived] from others' [i.e., 'of them'] — derivatives; 'one transgression may involve liability for a number of sacrifices [i.e., 'one' = 'them'] — awareness of the Sabbath coupled with unawareness of [the forbidden nature of his] labours.2  Many offences may involve but one sacrifice [i.e., 'them' = 'one'] — unawareness of the Sabbath coupled with awareness of [the forbidden nature of his] labours.3  — Samuel does not accept the interpretation that 'one' [transgression] may involve liability for a number of sacrifices, while many offences may involve but one sacrifice.4

Raba asked R. Nahman: What if one forgot both?5  — Said he, Surely he is unaware of the Sabbath; hence he incurs only one [sacrifice].6  On the contrary, he has forgotten the labours; hence he is liable for each?7  But said R. Ashi: We see: if he would desist [from these labours] on account of the Sabbath,8  his unawareness is of the Sabbath, and he incurs only one sacrifice. While if he would desist on account of the labours,9  his unawareness is [chiefly] of the labours, and he is liable for each. Said Rabina to R. Ashi: Would he then desist on account of the Sabbath save because of the [forbidden nature of his] labours; and would he desist on account of [the forbidden nature of his] labours save because of the Sabbath?10  Hence there is no difference.11

We learnt: The primary labours are forty less one. Now we pondered thereon, Why state the number? And R. Johanan answered: [It is to teach] that if one performs all of them in one state of unawareness he is liable for each separately. Now, it is well if you say that if one is unaware of both he is liable for each separately; then it is correct.12  But if you maintain that this is [mainly] an unawareness of the Sabbath [and] entails only one sacrifice, then how is this possible?13  [Presumably] by awareness of the Sabbath and ignorance of the [forbidden] labours. Now, that is well if he14  agrees with R. Johanan, who ruled: As long as one is unaware of kareth, even if he deliberately offends in respect of the negative command:15  then it is conceivable where he knows that the Sabbath is the object of a negative injunction. But if he agrees with R. Simeon b. Lakish, who maintained: He must offend unwittingly in respect of both the negative injunction and kareth, then wherein does he know that it is the Sabbath?16  — He knew of boundaries, this being in accordance with R. Akiba.17

Raba said: If one reaped and ground [corn] of the size of a dried fig18  in unawareness of the Sabbath but awareness in respect of the labours,19  and then he again reaped and ground [corn] of the size of a dried fig in awareness of the Sabbath but unawareness in respect of the labours,20  and then he was apprised of the reaping and/or grinding [performed] in unawareness of the Sabbath but awareness of the labours,21  then he was apprised of the reaping and/or grinding [performed] in awareness of the Sabbath but unawareness in respect of the labours:

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. A sin-offering is incurred only when a complete action is performed. The writing of a complete word — Simeon — is given as an example. Now, if one commences the word Simeon, [H] SHiMeoN in Hebrew, but writes only the first two letters thereof, viz., SHeM [H], he is also liable, though his intention is only partly fulfilled, because SHeM is a complete word in itself. This is called one labour which is part of another (i.e., 'of them'). If, however, the part he writes is not complete in itself, e.g., the first two letters of Reuben, in Hebrew, there is no liability.
  2. Hence though he violates only one injunction, viz. the sacredness of the Sabbath, yet since he is ignorant of each of these acts, he is regarded as having committed a number of separate inadvertent transgressions, for each of which a sacrifice is due.
  3. Since all his actions are the result of being unaware of one single fact, viz., that it is the Sabbath, only one sacrifice is due. — Hence the same difficulty, why does Samuel not learn from these verses? (The notes on this passage follow Rashi's explanation in Sanh. 62a; v. Sonc. ed., pp. 421 ff.)
  4. He does not agree to their implication of the verse, holding that it is all required in respect of primary and derivative labours.
  5. Lit., 'if there is the forgetfulness of both in his hand'. — I.e., he was unaware that it was the Sabbath and that his acts are forbidden on the Sabbath.
  6. As in n. 2.
  7. As in n. 1.
  8. I.e., on being informed that it is the Sabbath.
  9. When informed that these labours are forbidden on the Sabbath.
  10. When he is reminded of one, he naturally understands that the other is meant too, and desists on account of both.
  11. Hence the problem remains in both cases; therefore only one sacrifice is brought, since a sin-offering may not be offered unless one is definitely liable thereto (Rashi as elaborated by Maharsha).
  12. For if he is ignorant of all the forbidden labours of the Sabbath, the Sabbath is exactly the same as any other day to him, and he may be regarded as unaware of both.
  13. That he should be liable for every single labour.
  14. R. Nahman. Rashi reads.: That is well in the view of R. Johanan etc., v. supra 69a.
  15. V. p. 329, n. 3.
  16. Seeing that he does not know of a single forbidden labour: v. n. 1.
  17. V. supra 69a for notes.
  18. That is the minimum for which one is culpable.
  19. So that he is liable to one sacrifice only.
  20. Having been apprised of the Sabbath, whilst he forgot that these are prohibited labours. In this case he is separately culpable on account of each. In the interval between his first labours and his second he did not learn of his offence.
  21. Whereupon he set aside one sacrifice on account of both labours — this being before he learnt of his second series of offences.